SMI’s Payne Ratner Named a Flash Fiction Contest Finalist

SMI’s Payne Ratner Named a Flash Fiction Contest Finalist

SMI Copywriter Payne Ratner has been writing ads for 30 years. He was recently named a finalist in Fractured Lit’s Flash Fiction Contest, and his story will appear in an upcoming issue of Fractured Lit. I sat down with Payne to talk about his award-winning story and how great audio ads employ classic story structure. 


Liz Iversen: What was your flash fiction piece about?

Payne Ratner: It’s about a hoarder who, at the end of her life, makes an important discovery.

LI: Where did you get the idea for the piece, or what inspired you to write it?

PR: It began as a writing exercise from a prompt. I can’t remember the prompt.

LI: Where do you get your ideas for audio ads?

PR: First, from the product. It’s like the writing prompt that inspired the story. You look at the product and ask, how will this improve someone’s life? Say it’s a product that clears acne. Then, what is someone’s life like who suffers from acne. That’s what you begin with. Do you dramatize the problem? Maybe. Or do you address it directly? Maybe. Start with the problem, then present the solution and then, at the end, present the life changed by the product. It’s the classic structure of any story. Beginning, middle and end. There are many beginnings to choose from, many middles, many endings. But if it’s an ad, the ending is always going to be some form of happy.

LI: Do you think of developing a character or story when you write ads?

PR: Probably story. The conflict (or problem that the product will resolve), the quest for the resolution of the conflict (what discoveries/components make this product the product/resolution you’ve sought?), and the resolution. The conflict is resolved by the product. The character develops as the story unfolds.

LI: Do you think about theme when you write ads, and how does that influence what you write?

PR: Again, the theme is really how a conflict, (a problem) can be resolved. It’s all about entering into the struggle or desire of the “protagonist”. The person who wants or needs the product and will benefit the most from it. The better you can really feel what they feel, the better you can relate to them and understand their eventual relief.  

LI: Do you enjoy writing ads or stories more? Why?

PR: Ads and stories share similarities in structure. And working out the problem/solution is always – or almost always – fun.


Want to learn more about creating effective radio ads? Read SMI’s “Top Ten Keys to Creating Great Radio Ads.”

And find out how the experts at Strategic Media, Inc. can help you craft a great radio ad that motivates listeners to act. Contact SMI today. 

SMI Pledges $500,000 to Travis Mills Foundation

SMI Pledges $500,000 to Travis Mills Foundation

On September 11, 2021 we paused to reflect on the tragic events that occurred twenty years ago.  Much has happened since, but one thing is certain, our Strategic Media team has not forgotten.  We remember the heroes of 9/11, we remember the heroes who fought to protect us before and since, and we honor all of those brave men and women who have come home as distinguished members of our military.

Four years ago, SMI had the privilege of meeting Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Travis Mills when he spoke to our company.  We also invited the Scarborough High School swim team to listen to his story of commitment, determination, and courage.  The resounding message from Travis was, “Never Give up.  Never Quit!”  Travis served our country in Afghanistan and on his third tour he was gravely wounded after putting his pack down on an IED.  He lost parts of all four limbs and after beating seemingly insurmountable odds, he and his wife, Kelsey, started the Travis Mills Foundation.  TMF provides a retreat for wounded service members and their families where they can come together, at no cost, and enjoy facilities that provide them normalcies that give them hope and joy.

A key element of Strategic Media Inc.’s mission is giving back to local organizations with the hope of improving the lives of people who have been impacted by events beyond their control.  My wife, Leigh, and I recently attended a TMF event.  The fundraiser was aimed at making enhancements to the Rome, Maine facility that will greatly improve the experience for veterans and their families.

This event inspired us to make the decision that the Travis Mills Foundation will be the anchor of SMI’s giving back initiative because of the sincerity and effectiveness of their mission.  Our decision is inspired by Travis and Kelsey, and also by our fathers who both served in Vietnam, and our mothers who “waited” for them to return.  Military service is a family commitment and the TMF supports and celebrates that tradition.

Beginning this year, Strategic Media Inc. will pledge $100,000 per year for the next five years to help support the efforts Travis and his team are making to help others.  We hope that the SMI team will have the privilege to visit the Rome, Maine location annually to volunteer our time as a group and show our support.

Updates from the SMI Team

Updates from the SMI Team

At Strategic Media, Inc., we believe in the importance of personal development and encourage employees to seek out opportunities for continued growth and improvement. Not only does pursuing one’s own unique interests help expand our skillsets and make us better employees, it makes us better humans.

The pandemic has brought new challenges to SMI, but it has also brought opportunities. Despite initial setbacks in 2020, we have overcome obstacles and seen continued growth in 2021. We have hired new employees and expanded our Podcast team, onboarded new radio and podcast clients, and Q3 is off to a record start. Here are a few other recent accomplishments by SMI staff:

Liz Iversen, Copywriter, attended the Tin House Summer Workshop and was named a 2021 Tin House Scholar.

Emily Morris, Accounting Assistant, received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Matt Perkins, Traffic Director, will be ending a 5-year run on the South Portland School Board in November.

Payne Ratner, Copywriter, was a finalist in the Michigonne Fiction Contest. His story, “Eat Jimmy,” will be published this winter in The New Guard.


SMI staff across various departments attended the Podcast Movement 2021 conference. Attendees included:

Jeff Small, Founder & CEO

Christina Baeten, Director of Client Services

Brooke Murray, Director of Strategic Growth

Lisa Risk, Podcast Strategist

Robin Bunker, National Media Buyer

Vanessa Verrillo, Senior Account Manager, Client Services

Emily Cashman, Account Coordinator, Client Services

Abby Baum, Account Coordinator, Client Services

Alex Foster, Media Analyst

We are proud of SMI’s continued growth and development and look forward to what lies ahead for our team and our clients. To learn more about SMI, click here.

Winter Outings Boost Mental Wellness at SMI

Winter Outings Boost Mental Wellness at SMI

Research shows that spending time outdoors is crucial for maintaining our health. This year, with COVID negatively impacting on our mental health, Strategic Media, Inc.’s CEO Jeff Small found it particularly important for staff to step away from their desks and enjoy outdoor activities. By sponsoring a ski trip, an ice skating outing, and a company-wide Mental Wellness Day, Small motivated employees to take some leisure time in an outdoor environment.  

“Winter in Maine offers so many fun activities,” Small said, “but it’s very easy to miss out if you don’t schedule the time. I knew the fresh air, vitamin D, and time to unwind would help everyone get a recharge during the week that they typically can’t make time for. My hope is that by encouraging everyone to do it during their normal work hours, it will spill into some new weekend adventures too.”

Much of the SMI staff has been working remotely, with little co-worker interaction outside of the video screen. Small wanted to present a safe outdoor environment for people to see one another, and the skiing and ice skating activities did just that.

“Skiing at Sunday River was really fun! [I] had a great time catching up with everybody outside of work,” said Vanessa Verrillo, Senior Account Manager, Client Services.



SMI’s company-wide Mental Wellness Day allowed staff to spend much-needed time outdoors with family members and pets.

Working remotely from Key West, Christina Baeten, Director of Client Services, celebrated SMI’s Mental Wellness day by pedal kayaking. “It was wonderful to take a midweek break away from the hustle and bustle to get some fresh air and exercise,” she said.

Employees near and far appreciated the opportunity to rest, recharge, and focus on their mental health.

“The mental health day was AMAZING!” said Emily Cashman, Client Services Account Coordinator. “We took my 7-month-old son sledding for the first time. He wasn’t too keen on actually sledding but he loved sitting in the snow! It was a day that I’ll always cherish and have some funny pictures of him pouting on the sled to show his friends in the future.”

“We’re so lucky to work for a company that values mental health as a part of overall wellness,” Cashman said. “SMI has always promoted health and wellness, but offering opportunities like this reminds us how important it is to take care of the whole person. Happy, healthy employees lead to a happy, healthy work environment. SMI understands that.”

Strategic Media’s Liz Iversen Finalist for Maine Chapbook Series

Strategic Media’s Liz Iversen Finalist for Maine Chapbook Series

Want to know how to create a great radio ad? It’s actually very easy, find a great writer. I can guarantee you that you’ve heard a radio ad for one of Strategic Media’s clients. It may have been on the radio, or SiriusXM, or a streaming platform like Pandora or Spotify. It could have even been on a podcast. But it was written by us. Or, more specifically, by Liz and Payne.

Liz Iversen and Payne Ratner have co-written some of the most successful radio ads ever aired by Strategic Media, and we have the data to prove it. Our clients want to know that their campaigns are working, and the attributable data and reporting we provide shows it.

Our writers do more than write radio ads. Payne is a playwright whose plays have been produced in New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Portland, Maine. And recently Liz was chosen as a finalist for the Maine Chapbook Series. Her submission was excerpted from her novel-in-progress – and now she has to finish it! Congrats Liz, we’re all very proud of you.

Want to learn more about Payne and liz? Click on this link to read a little about them.

And once you stop laughing at Payne’s bio, look at the rest of the SMI team and you’ll get a good idea about how much fun we have at SMI and how much fun Payne and Liz have writing team bios.

Strategic Media has been in business for 20 years and to this day our most popular blog post is the top 10 keys to writing great radio ads. Let’s just say our writers know what it takes to write a great audio ad, and they deliver.

To have your brand’s radio or podcast ad created by writing and audio experts, contact SMI today.

SMI CEO Jeff Small to Speak at SubSummit

SMI CEO Jeff Small to Speak at SubSummit

SubSummit, the world’s largest direct-to-consumer subscription conference, goes virtual this year! The 3-day event Nov. 11-13 will feature over 100 speakers and over 40 sessions. SubSummit connects industry leaders who are driving the evolution of how consumers discover, buy, and experience new products.

Strategic Media, Inc. CEO Jeff Small will be speaking on Wednesday, Nov. 11, about the five key strategies of a successful podcast campaign.

“My hope is for attendees to learn basic principles to getting started with podcast adverting,” Small said. “I want them to see the value in working with a trusted advisor and avoid costly pitfalls to increase their chances for building a profitable podcast campaign.”

Join SMI at SubSummit, the world’s largest direct-to-consumer subscription conference, on Nov. 11-13th. We’re excited to present Podcast is Exploding!: How do I generate a ROAS? and share five key strategies essential to launching a podcast campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 2:00 pm EST.


If you’re in the subscription space, this is a must-attend event! 


Claim your free ticket: Tickets